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The Secret Environmentalist: Exit, pursued by a (Green) Blob



Poor Owen Patterson, he’s not exactly Steve McQueen. Like Steve, Owen was (or felt) attacked by a blob, his borrowed term for the environmental movement; a mix of NGOs, lobbying organisations and other environmental interest groups. The erstwhile UK environment secretary apparently felt besieged by a well-funded, coordinated machine.

However, most of us inside it would struggle to recognise our sector as such – it will be more familiar to us as a dis-organised, poorly funded rag bag of environmental types riven with internecine conflicts, petty jealousies and clashing egos.

Unlike Steve McQueen however, Owen’s heroism in fighting the green blob is less clear to the observer…perhaps he will find his place in history as the champion of the downtreaders, Galt like hero of the overlords.

It must be tough being environment secretary, especially when your acceptance of the basics of science is tenuous and your belief in the free market means that noting its inadequacies for preserving our life support systems is tantamount to apostasy.

Owen’s complaints about the green blob feed in to a regular (if tedious) mantra; that environmental groups are well (lavishly!) funded, self-serving and single issue. Let’s examine these one-by-one.

Are environmental groups well-funded?

Well, it depends what you are comparing them to. Some environmental NGOs (ENGOs) are reasonably comfortable, some have shiny landmark offices and attract and disperse funds of many millions a year. This seems like a lot, but it isn’t really when compared to the budgets of groups seeking to pursue a less pro-environment agenda. Such budgets are not merely those specifically earmarked for lobbying to affect, arrest or to design legislation and massage public opinion. The true equivalent to an ENGO’s turnover is the annual turnover of a consumption promoting company (and let’s face it, they are pretty much all engaged in that – growth is the only signifier of success in our modern markets – and growth equals increased consumption).

ENGO’s turnover, even the biggest, tend to be in the low multi millions, perhaps around 100 to 150 million. Corporates have turnover in the multi billions. When it comes to gaining the ear of politicians and policy makers, who is the best funded and best placed?

Are environmental groups self-serving?

Well, strangely enough they probably are self-serving, but so what? They tend to work to deliver action within their Articles of Association and in the interests of their members and their mission. That sounds remarkably like any corporation or private company you care to mention. Like any organisation, environmental NGOs try to undertake activities that have tangible demand, are fundable and have a connection to their purpose. You wouldn’t call a company on a trading estate in Luton selling electrical components self-serving, why should you do so to an organisation raising and spending money on conserving endangered species?

The single issue issue

All organisations have a purpose – does a focus upon the delivery of that through a strategy make them single issue? Big biotech is single issue when viewed through this lens – in Owen’s many meetings with their friendly representatives, did he castigate them for not making furniture or installing double glazing too?

Lots of corporate entities in our modern world are single issue; any private institution is literally single issue – interested in and encouraged to maximise capital, you can’t get more single issue than that!

Most environmental groups aren’t even single issue anyway – those mature enough to acknowledge the fundamental interconnectedness of things actually seek to create sustainable, equitable change on a number of levels.

In any case, why should an organisation having a clear and defined focus for its activities be seen as a problem, or render them dubious or suspicious?

Going Native

It is a strange and notable fact that, over the years, many UK environment secretaries have “gone native”, examples are considered to be Lord Deben and Michael Meacher.

Once in place for a period of time, they start to actually understand and represent the interests of the environment – straying from party ideology and dogma to what approaches a nuanced understanding and representation of environmental issues.

Why this happens is probably quite obvious, anyone who looks at environmental trends and their implications for our continued security and quality of life over the next few decades finds it hard to ignore the fact that environmental concern is not about sentiment but about survival. It is difficult to unlearn what you have learnt, difficult to un-see what you have seen.

Of course, this is not a problem if you aren’t there to learn in the first place and are wilfully blind to the fact that we need to find ways to live on our single planet that do not innately give rise to problems we are ill equipped and unprepared to deal with.

The wrong peg in the wrong hole

Of course, the outgoing minister’s problem might not have been that he really meant all those epithets, or even that he was publically outwitted by large (self-serving) Mustelids. It might be simply that he was put in a job that he really wasn’t suited to by a prime minister who seems to have a functional disregard for maintaining the quality and quantity of the UK’s social and ecological infrastructure.

Mr Paterson, like so many of his colleagues, was not really made for or interested in a world of complexity, a world where properties emerge from intricacy in unexpected ways, a world where the side-effects of an action may be much, much worse than the problem that it was originally designed to treat.

Of course the former minister may not get his fritillaries mixed up – but he is certainly part of a government seemingly hell bent on consigning fritillaries of all stripe and type to the (natural) history books.

May he go well and go fruitfully unto speaking engagements, his time in the lime-green light over for now. We have work to do even as he exits stage left (pursued by a blob), we must gird our loins to meet the fresh face entering stage right (wing), the next ideologue hot off the political production line.

“The Secret Environmentalist has been in the business for more than two decades and has worked at all levels of sustainability. S/he has ranged from the chalk-face of kids education and the coal-face of small business support to the nightmare of drinking coffee in some of shiniest boardrooms on the planet. Experienced in the real world of the private sector and the realer one of not-for profits, the Secret Environmentalist is mad as hell, and is not going to take this anymore.” 

Further reading:

The Secret Environmentalist: tell me something I don’t know

The Secret Environmentalist: things are changing but sustainability is still a pipedream

The Secret Environmentalist: all out for shale gas

Our insane civilisation lacks the wisdom to deal with the problems we face

Climate change: the time has come to become unreasonable


The Secret Environmentalist has been in the business for more than two decades and has worked at all levels of sustainability. They have ranged from the chalk-face of kids' education and the coal-face of small business support to the nightmare of drinking coffee in some of shiniest boardrooms on the planet. Experienced in the real world of the private sector and the realer one of not-for profits, The Secret Environmentalist is mad as hell, and is not going to take this anymore.


4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again



reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan |

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!


If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money




eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete |

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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